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Traveling to The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

March 20, 2020 | By

The UAE is a destination that luxury travelers from around the world have been visiting for many years.  While not as popular with American tourists I found the region to be fascinating and worthy of adding to your wander list.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Middle Eastern country located in the western portion of Asia made up of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain.  Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most popular emirates for tourism, although they are both very different and each worth exploring during your visit.

Let’s address some topics travelers might like to know about this region.

 

Best Time to Visit

October to May. Winters are comfortable and warm (think 70s during the day and 60s at night). Summers are hot day and night, so it is best to avoid travel June-August.

Length of Stay

Many American travelers use the UAE as a stopover destination on their way to places such as Singapore, Malaysia or the Maldives. I think we also need to keep the UAE in mind for longer stays.  You can also be creative and visit the UAE first and then head to Europe, as there are often great flight deals doing this type of route.  If you just want to do a stopover you can do Dubai in 2-3 nights. But to make a full trip out of it 7-10 days would be ideal.

Time Difference

The UAE is +9 hours Eastern Standard Time.

Currency

The currency is the dirham (AED). I recommend getting some local currency at an ATM when you arrive at the Dubai airport.  Credit cards are also widely accepted.

Language

The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and there is no need for translation while traveling.

Visas

United States citizens visiting the UAE for less than 30 days do not need a visa for travel, nor are any vaccinations required. For any destination, you plan on traveling to I always recommend getting the most up to date information at Travel.State.Gov. UAE link

The Trip

It all starts with the international flight. I flew Emirates direct from JFK to DXB. It was an 11-hour flight there and 14 hours on the return.  I personally found this easier than some flights that I have taken to Europe, as the quality of the planes, service, and amenities is much higher on Emirates than many traditional carriers.

Arriving at the Dubai airport was seamless.  The airport is modern, clean and easy to navigate. Wanderlust Travel can arrange to have a meet and greet service at the airport to guide you through customs and help you get you and your luggage to your hotel transfer, so you don’t have to think about anything after your international flight.  There is no need to rent a car in this destination as taxis and car services are affordable and easy to arrange.

Where to go to the UAE

DUBAI

Think of Dubai like Las Vegas, but cleaner and more extravagant and no casinos (as they are not allowed). This is a city built in the desert with some of the tallest buildings in the world, largest shopping malls, museums to explore, luxury resorts and it is the home of the upcoming 2020 World Expo beginning in October.

You have water activities in the Persian Gulf, desert experiences in the Arabian Desert and multiple golf courses in the region for active travelers.  Technology, culture, art, and shopping are also areas of interest for many travelers.

Culinary options are available from all areas of the world, so no matter your taste there is something for you. I recommend trying some of the traditional Arabic cuisine, which I found to be healthy and tasty. The most common staple foods are wheat, seafood, goat, lamb, beef, dates, almonds, olives, and various vegetables and fruits.

Many travelers from Europe come to Dubai for up to a 12-night holiday. I think most Americans would be able to explore the city and have time to relax in a 2-4-night stay.

ABU DHABI

1.5 hours south of Dubai accessible by a state-of-the-art highway system you will find the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. This region is more traditional and while it has some big buildings, they are not as over the top as Dubai. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a must-visit site in this region. It is the largest mosque in the country and free for all visitors. For art lovers, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a structural masterpiece and has a great collection within.  A Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is also in the works.

The recommended length of stay in Abu Dhabi is 2-4-nights. There are a variety of luxury hotels in this area.  Travelers can stay in the city or have a more relaxing stay with some of the best beaches in the region on Saadiyat Island.

DESERT EXPERIENCE

I would also recommend capping off your stay with 2-3 nights at one of the luxury resorts in the desert for a unique Middle Eastern experience.  Anantara Qasr Al Sarab and Al Maha are options we provide our luxury clients.

Why Visit the UAE

The UAE is truly a paradox of cultures and topography with a mix of strong ethnic traditions and new ways of life. The country is extremely clean, safe for tourists and welcoming to visitors to enjoy their time in the UAE. It is constantly growing with new ideas and innovations that will make visitors want to return again and again.

My favorite part of the UAE is the hotels. The best hotel brands from around the world have a presence here. With some of the biggest hotel rooms I have experienced, high touch service and a range of amenities, dining, and spas, the hotels are all unique and destinations in themselves.